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Monday, May 25, 2015

Speculative 'Reviews': Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX

Introduction

This is the first article in a series of Speculative 'Reviews' articles that might appear from time to time. To state the obvious: This lens does not exist as I'm writing this (May 2015), and it may never appear, either. I have no sources in Nikon (or elsewhere). This article is a product of my knowledge and experience, so, in other words, it is an educated guess. The purpose of these articles is to make us all think, what would this lens mean for Nikon photographers, how would it affect our shooting, and in which way would it affect the market.

General

A DX-only Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX would send a very powerful message: Nikon has not abandoned the DX advanced amateurs (or semi-pro even). In terms of 35mm equiv. focal length, we would be talking about something like a 24-70mm f/2.8 VR lens. Think of the pro-caliber Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, but with VR (and in DX size/weight). The only similar lens in Nikon's lineup would be the 17-55 f/2.8. Great optics, but no VR, expensive, and oversized. A comparable lens could also be the Sigma ART 18-35 f/1.8 - great optics, no VR, a tiny bit faster, but pretty limited in terms of focal length (especially considering the presence of the small, cheap, and awesome Nikkor 35mm f/1.8).

A fast midrange zoom can be very useful in rapidly changing scenes.
This one is taken with the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 17-55 f/2.8

Scope

Obviously, this would be a DX midrange dream come true for a significant number of DX photographers - provided, of course, that the optical formula contained some seriously capable glass. A lens like this, paired with a fast 70-200 tele could be the only two lenses you ever need.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Get Constructive Criticism for Your Photos

Introduction

Today's article was inspired by seeing an online post on a photography forum. Someone posted 2-3 photos and asked: "Are my photos good or bad?". In all areas of life, the quality of the answer also depends on the quality of the question. Asking whether a photo you posted online is good or bad is like asking "what kind of clothes should I buy?"

Criticism is thin ice. Some people don't want to receive it, others think they do (but become upset by it), and others are excessively self-deprecating and embrace all kinds of feedback, without any meta-criticism applied to it (=without critiquing the criticism).

Reading all this, you might think it doesn't concern you. You might think it sounds too complicated, too theoretical, too difficult in some abstract way. Or, conversely, you might think it sounds something concerning only beginners - if you are an experienced photographer, you might think all this is something you've been through in the past.

The truth is, criticism of your art is a never-ending process. And that's a good thing! You can always get better.

If I ask "Is this photo good or bad?" and you answer "It's nice" (or, "it sucks"), have I learned anything at all?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Scale in Your Landscapes: Why It Is Important

If you have already read my book Photography and Affect: A New Theory of Vision, you might remember the part where I talk about the "language" that connects visual cues and affective elements - such as thoughts, feelings, states of mind. I had talked about the way our thoughts and emotions can be "translated" into visual aspects (and hence encoded as a photograph), with the intended viewer later decoding these to form, once again, meaning. To name only three examples: the way you frame your image (e.g. with your horizon tilted or straight), the way you adjust contrast (e.g. high or low), or the way you treat color (e.g. saturated reds and dull greens, or vice-versa), all convey a different message. Learning how to manipulate this language, will allow you to convey your message with better control.

Today we will talk about landscape photography and scale. By scale, we mean visual references that allow the viewer to properly understand how big (or small) the objects of the picture really are. You might be wondering in which way these are related to the paragraph just above. The answer is simple:

In landscape photography, scale allows you to manipulate viewer expectations.

It will be far easier to understand with a photo example. Take a look at the following image: